Lake Champlain Chocolates Opens Reimagined Flagship Store

To survive in the retail marketplace today, brick and mortar outlets are providing more than just a transactional experience. Successful retailers are providing a more engaging, more immersive experience, where customers interact with a brand and find something new to discover each time they return.

This is just as true in Vermont as it is anywhere else.

Lake Champlain Chocolates is one Vermont company that faced this opportunity recently and chose to expand its offerings and take its flagship store in a new direction.

After relocating their manufacturing facility to Williston, the Pine Street location could no longer offer visitors the traditional factory tour experience.  In order to continue to attract visitors and tourists, the company turned to TruexCullins for a complete redesign.

With this charge, TruexCullins led the owners through an extensive programming and visioning process to reimagine the entire space.

The result is a prime example of experiential retail – a space that provides memorable and engaging customer experiences and invites participation. More than just a store, the LCC Flagship is a space for gathering and for sharing food and drink.

The most noticeable addition is the new Hot Chocolate Café and Ice Cream Bar, with expanded counter and table seating. Also new is a full bakery, with chocolate treats and baked goods prepared daily on site.

The retail area is 60% larger than the previous store. White oak casework is built into the perimeter of the space, with individual retail bays customized to various product lines. Local materials reflect the company’s Vermont roots, such as the Chocolates of Vermont collection displayed in maple sap buckets against a barnwood wall.

The ceiling is painted dark, enhancing the height while allowing individual features in the space to stand out. Wood ceilings and decorative pendants are suspended over the café and truffle counter.

From the retail area, customers can glimpse into the Innovation Kitchen, where pastries, ice cream, and small batch chocolate specialties are made.

From the beginning, we knew we wanted to bring in the magic of the chocolate making process, to capture the essence of the craft in the retail space.

At the manufacturing facility in Williston, truffles flow along curved conveyor belts to be dipped and boxed. Multiple processes run concurrently, like clockwork, performing a kind of chocolate dance as truffles, coins, and bars are formed and packaged for shipping.

This fluid sense of motion inspired the design and layout of the flagship store.

A continuous soffit of white flows around the space, connecting the retail displays and guiding customers through the store. Curves are strategically integrated into the design, most notably at the café, where the counter curves around to meet the customer and fresh pastries are displayed behind a curved panel of glass.

The space also features touches of copper in the decorative pendants and specialty shelving, a nod to the large copper kettles used for melting cocoa.

All of these moves are designed to highlight the product on display, not overpower it. The materials, products and forms in the space are all intentional and appropriate, bringing forward the character of Vermont, the quality of the product, and the story of the company.

Since opening, the design of the store has been driving sales and positioning the company well for the next stage of its growth, including greater focus on the company’s sub-brands and secondary products.

Special thanks go out to the entire project team. The general contractor for the project was Neagley & Chase, and contributors to the project included retail design consultant Abby Shaw, lighting designers Available Light, brand design consultants Ruthless & Wellington, and food service consultants KRBS Specialists.